Communicating a terminal prognosis is challenging for patients, families and healthcare professionals. However, positive effects have been reported when children are told about their diagnosis and prognosis, including fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression and enhanced adherence to treatment. When research about prognostic communication was first published in the 1950s and 1960s, it recommended protecting children from bad news. By the late 1960s, a more open approach was recommended and by the late 1980s the advice was to always tell children. There has been a growing awareness of the complexity of prognostic disclosure and the need to balance often competing factors, such as hope and patient and family considerations, on a case-to-case basis.
The aim of this nationwide survey was to explore, based on an open-ended question, cancer-bereaved siblings’ advice to peers with a brother or sister with cancer. Half of the advice related to being with the ill sibling and cherishing the time together. Other advice related to the value of communicating about the situation, letting go of guilt, and living life as usual. The results highlight the importance of health care professionals, family, and others facilitating for siblings to spend time together and communicate openly.
BACKGROUND: Young adults represent a minority in research; they are often considered too young or too old for participation. There is sparse information, especially in bereavement research, regarding how this age group perceives research participation and what they consider beneficial or harmful.
AIM: To explore how parentally bereaved and nonbereaved young adults perceive research participation.
DESIGN: Qualitative analysis of free-text comments collected in a Swedish nation-wide survey.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Parentally cancer-bereaved and nonbereaved young adults between 18 and 25 years old living in Sweden.
RESULTS: Five categories were identified from the free-text comments, three among the cancer-bereaved: (1) therapeutic to remember the deceased, (2) valuable to help others and improve care, and (3) short-term distressful-long-term beneficial, and two among the nonbereaved: (1) increased reflection and awareness about life, and (2) an opportunity to help others.
CONCLUSIONS: It is important to invite young adults to participate in bereavement research. The results suggest that potential harm is minimal and that participating in bereavement research can have a beneficial effect on young adults.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Children with severe spinal muscular atrophy have complex care needs due to progressive muscle weakness, eventually leading to respiratory failure. To design a care system adapted to families' needs, more knowledge about parents' experience of care and its coordination between settings is required. This study explores (1) whether parents felt that health professionals took every opportunity to help the child feel as good as possible, (2) parents' satisfaction with various care settings, and (3) parents' satisfaction with coordination between settings.
METHODS: Data derive from nationwide Swedish and Danish surveys of bereaved and nonbereaved parents of children with severe spinal muscular atrophy born between 2000 and 2010 in Sweden and 2003 and 2013 in Denmark (N = 95, response rate = 84%). Descriptive statistics and content analysis were used.
RESULTS: Although most of the parents reported that care professionals had taken every opportunity to help the child feel as good as possible, one-third reported the opposite. Bereaved parents were significantly more satisfied with care than nonbereaved (81% vs 29%). The children received care at many different locations, for all of which parents rated high satisfaction. However, some were dissatisfied with care coordination, describing lack of knowledge and communication among staff, and how they as parents had to take the initiative in care management.
CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the importance of improving disease-specific competence, communication and knowledge exchange among staff. For optimal care for these children and families, parents should be included in dialogues on care and staff should be more proactive and take care management initiatives.
BACKGROUND: In palliative care contexts, support programs for families with a severely ill parent and minor children are few, and even fewer have been evaluated scientifically. The aims of this study are to examine feasibility and potential effects of a modified version of the Family Talk Intervention (FTI) in palliative care.
METHODS: This ongoing family-centered intervention has a quasi-experimental design comparing one intervention and one comparison group. The intervention includes severely ill parents who have minor children (aged 6-19 yrs) and are receiving advanced homecare in Stockholm, Sweden between March 2017 and March 2018. The main goal of the FTI is to support family communication through psycho-education and narrative theory. The modified FTI consists of six meetings with family members, and is held by two interventionists. Each family sets up needs-based goals for the intervention. For evaluation purposes, data are collected by questionnaire before the intervention, within two months after baseline, and one year after baseline. Interviews will be conducted within two months after FTI is completed. Notes taken by one of the interventionists during the family meetings will also be used. Questionnaire data analysis will focus on patterns over time using descriptive statistics. For interview data and notes, content analysis will be used.
DISCUSSION: This study will add knowledge about palliative care for parents who have minor children. It will contribute by testing use of FTI in palliative care, and point out directions for future evaluations of FTI in palliative care settings.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier NCT03119545 , retrospectively registered in April 18, 2017.
OBJECTIVE: Many bereaved siblings have still not come to terms with their grief many years after the loss, but few studies have focused on what can help. The aims of this study were to identify cancer-bereaved adolescents' and young adults' ways of coping with grief after loss of a sibling, and examine whether these ways of coping were related to their experience of having worked through their grief.
METHOD: This nationwide survey of 174 cancer-bereaved siblings (73% participation rate) is based on one open-ended question about coping with grief ("What has helped you to cope with your grief after your sibling's death?") and one closed-ended question about siblings' long-term grief ("Do you think you have worked through your grief over your sibling's death?"). The open-ended question was analyzed with content analysis; descriptive statistics and Fisher's exact test were used to examine the relation between type of coping and siblings' long-term grief.
RESULT: The siblings described four ways of coping: (1) thinking of their dead brother/sister and feeling and expressing their grief; (2) distracting or occupying themselves; (3) engaging in spiritual and religious beliefs/activities; and (4) waiting for time to pass. One of these categories of coping with grief, namely, engaging in spiritual and religious beliefs and activities, was associated with siblings' experience of having worked through their grief two to nine years after the loss (p = 0.016).
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: Those siblings who had used spirituality, religious beliefs, and activities to cope were more likely to have worked through their grief than those who had not.
BACKGROUND: A majority of cancer-bereaved siblings report long-term unresolved grief, thus it is important to identify factors that may contribute to resolving their grief.
OBJECTIVE: To identify modifiable or avoidable family and care-related factors associated with unresolved grief among siblings two to nine years post loss.
DESIGN: This is a nationwide Swedish postal survey.
MEASUREMENTS: Study-specific questions and the standardized instrument Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Primary outcome was unresolved grief, and family and care-related factors were used as predictors.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Cancer-bereaved sibling (N = 174) who lost a brother/sister to childhood cancer during 2000–2007 in Sweden (participation rate 73%). Seventy-three were males and 101 females. The age of the siblings at time of loss was 12–25 years and at the time of the survey between 19 and 33 years.
RESULTS: Several predictors for unresolved grief were identified: siblings' perception that it was not a peaceful death [odds ratio (OR): 9.86, 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.39-40.65], limited information given to siblings the last month of life (OR: 5.96, 95% CI: 1.87-13.68), information about the impending death communicated the day before it occurred (OR: 2.73, 95% CI: 1.02-7.33), siblings' avoidance of the doctors (OR: 3.22, 95% CI: 0.75-13.76), and lack of communication with family (OR: 2.86, 95% CI: 1.01-8.04) and people outside the family about death (OR: 5.07, 95% CI: 1.64-15.70). Depressive symptoms (OR: 1.27, 95% CI: 1.12-1.45) and time since loss (two to four years: OR: 10.36, 95% CI: 2.87-37.48 and five to seven years: OR: 8.36, 95% CI: 2.36-29.57) also predicted unresolved grief. Together, these predictors explained 54% of the variance of unresolved grief.
CONCLUSION: Siblings' perception that it was not a peaceful death and poor communication with family, friends, and healthcare increased the risk for unresolved grief among the siblings.
OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to explore bereaved siblings' positive and negative memories and experiences of their brother's or sister's illness and death.
METHOD: In our nationwide Swedish study, 174 of 240 (73%) bereaved siblings participated, and 70% responded to two open-ended statements, which focused on siblings' positive and negative memories and experiences of illness and death. The data were analyzed using systematic text condensation.
RESULTS: The bereaved siblings' responses were categorized into four different themes: (1) endurance versus vulnerability, (2) family cohesion versus family conflicts, (3) growth versus stagnation, and (4) professional support versus lack of professional support. The first theme expressed endurance as the influence that the ill siblings' strong willpower, good mood, and stamina in their difficult situation had on healthy siblings, whereas vulnerability was expressed as the feeling of emptiness and loneliness involved with having an ill and dying sibling. In the second theme, family cohesion was expressed as the bonds being strengthened between family members, whereas family conflicts often led siblings to feel invisible and unacknowledged. In the third theme, most siblings expressed the feeling that they grew as individuals in the process of their brother's or sister's illness and death, whereas others experienced stagnation because of the physical and mental distress they bore throughout this time, often feeling forgotten. In the last theme-professional support-most siblings perceived physicians and staff at the hospital as being warm, kind, and honest, while some siblings had negative experiences.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: The study shows that bereaved siblings can have positive memories and experiences. The significance of the positive buffering effect on bereaved siblings' own endurance, personal growth, family cohesion, and social support should be noted. This knowledge can be valuable in showing healthcare professionals the importance of supporting the siblings of children with cancer throughout the cancer trajectory and afterwards into bereavement.